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April 16, 2008

S.F. judge dumps most of Baker's Dozen case

San Francisco Chronicle (CA):

A judge threw out felony charges Wednesday against two young San Francisco men in the nationally publicized Baker's Dozen assault case, ruling that prosecutors lacked evidence against them in the New Year's 2007 clash with members of a Yale University singing troupe.

Judge Kathleen Kelly cleared Brian Dwyer, 20, entirely and cut the case against Richard Aicardi, 20, to a single count of misdemeanor assault. "I simply do not have sufficient evidence," Kelly said following a three-day preliminary hearing in San Francisco Superior Court. "I have very, very carefully considered the evidence and the exhibits."

Dwyer burst into tears and embraced Aicardi, his lawyers and his family. The two defendants - the only men ever charged in the case that may have involved more than three dozen people - left quickly down a Hall of Justice staircase without commenting. The two could have been sent to state prison if convicted of the felony assault and battery charges originally lodged against them.

The case stemmed from a New Year's party at a police sergeant's house in the Richmond District that turned into a sidewalk melee between the singing group and local teenagers. The trouble started, some say, after the troupe stood in a circle and sang the National Anthem and one member of the group kissed a local girl while another helped himself to a beer without permission.

Dwyer's attorney, Tony Brass, said he was "very pleased" by the ruling that cleared his client of charges related to the attack on Yale student Evan Gogel. Dwyer had admitted to police investigators that he kicked someone that night and "wanted to put pain on him," according to police testimony. But he did not admit that Gogel was the person he kicked, and the judge found no evidence to tie Dwyer to the attack on Gogel. "Brian Dwyer is not the person who kicked Mr. Gogel," Brass said. "He wanted no part of the fight. He admits kicking someone, and he's certainly not proud of that, but he did not commit a criminal act."

Aicardi's lawyer, Jim Collins, said people "had the wrong impression about what happened" during the melee. He said participants on both sides had been drunk and that the Yale students were "no angels."

Before issuing her ruling in the hushed courtroom, Kelly said she was "very, very troubled" by accounts of the fight and said she was "particularly disturbed to hear of the injuries Mr. Gogel suffered." Gogel testified that four to five men had kicked him repeatedly and left him bruised on the pavement.

But the judge said that identifications of the defendants provided by Yale students involved in the incident were contradictory and that evidence showed that Gogel's attackers, who fled before police arrived, could not have included Dwyer, who was briefly detained by officers at the scene. Kelly left standing a misdemeanor assault charge against Aicardi and ordered him to return to court May 7.

Aicardi allegedly punched Yale singer William Bailey in the jaw after Bailey tried to diffuse the brewing conflict. Collins said the severity of the remaining assault charge against his client was "as low a crime as can be."

James Hammer, an attorney who represents families of Yale students who have sued Aicardi and Dwyer in civil court, said he was disappointed at the outcome of the case but said the plaintiffs would pursue their lawsuit.

Posted by acapnews at April 16, 2008 10:20 PM


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